November 27, 2008

Fixing Indian education

Private sector education entrepreneurs experiencing "schadenfreude" (German for joy in other people's misery) in the Manipal group's confrontation with the medical education regulator have much to learn from a poem written after World War II by a German pastor called Martin Niemöller about the Nazis. He wrote, "First they came for the Communists,/ and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist/ Then they came for the Jews,/ and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew/ Then they came for the Catholics,/ and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant/ Finally they came for me,/ but by that time there was no one left to speak up."
Irrational, corrupt and autocratic regimes must always be stood up to because there is no place to hide from them. Making peace (or an off-balance sheet settlement) only makes things worse because this beast feeds on itself. Medical education in India is regulated by an autonomous body called the Medical Council of India (MCI). MCI, like other vertical ayatollahs of education, has created a toll gate in milking education institutions with irrational capacity licensing norms around infrastructure sharing, faculty, curriculum, governance and much else. In true licence raj tradition, they have draconian inspection powers that create regulatory arbitrage with an answer looking for a question. MCI has arbitrarily halved the number of medical seats for Manipal and continues to make public noises about derecognition. Being singled out for selective enforcement means that an institution with students from 53 countries now mostly spends its energy (and money) expanding overseas because of regulatory cholesterol in India.

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